Friday, July 29, 2022

The Problem with Love and Thunder


When I went to see Thor: Love and Thunder, I didn't really know what to expect. We’ve known for three years that Jane Foster would return wielding Mjolnir. Other than that, I mostly went in blind (even with seeing the trailers beforehand). Like many movies and shows nowadays, Love and Thunder came under criticism right from the start (always gotta complain about something). But overall I actually enjoyed it. Before I get to that though, let’s start with the problem….

Like I said before, I didn’t know what to expect going into Love and Thunder. For that reason, I was pleasantly surprised. I think it all comes down to expectations. If you go in expecting a serious superhero movie about Thor’s life after Endgame, you’ll be disappointed. If you go in realizing it’s a superhero rom-com, it’s much more enjoyable. It’s just what Marvel has been doing, trying their hands at other genres: superhero kung fu (Shang Chi), superhero horror (Multiverse of Madness), and superhero comedy (upcoming She-Hulk). It’s a gamble, but they have the money to take some risks. So if a superhero romantic comedy (with a sprinkling of tragedy) isn’t your thing, you won’t like Love and Thunder. And that’s okay. We all have different tastes.

As far as actual problems with the movie, I had a hard time jumping around. Sure, that’s the nature of the Bifrost, but we went from planet to planet repeatedly through the movie. Not really spending much time in any particular place. It was a bit jarring to go from New Asgard to the shadows to the god council. Just a lot going on.

Speaking of lots going on, there were so many moving parts, especially in regards to characters. We had the core four characters: Thor, Jane, Valkyrie, and Korg. But then we had the Guardians of the Galaxy, a number of Asgardians to keep track of, and the random gods when they went to see Zeus. A handful of Asgardians I can understand… but the gods were a bit underwhelming to me. I don’t feel like Zeus’s lightning really made much of an impact in the final battle (it was more about Mjolnir and Stormbreaker again)... so we ended up with screen time of random gods that we’ll never see again. In some ways I feel like the only point of introducing the gods was to reveal Hercules in the credit scene.

Now for the good stuff. First and foremost, Jane Foster. When Natalie Portman didn’t return to MCU after Dark World, we all assumed she was done. The throwaway line in Ragnarok about their breakup was all we were going to get. Only a couple months after her cameo in Endgame, we learned she’d be returning for this movie. Her story in this movie was probably my favorite part. It gave us some history on where she’s been, it gave us more Darcy (who I love), and it gave us a definitive ending… with Jane succumbing to her cancer and entering Valhalla, we have a happy, albeit tragic, end to her story. 

The music for this movie was great too. The soundtrack has a Guardians of the Galaxy feel, as it used classic rock (including four popular songs by Guns N’ Roses) and a good handful of others, underscoring the epic moments of the movie. I grew up in the wrong decade to regularly familiarize myself with Guns N’ Roses, but this movie sold me on some of their songs. 

I also loved the villain. Gorr was so devious, but he wasn't meant to be evil, per se. Just hurt. A grieving father who had spent time worshipping gods who didn't care. I mean, how many of us have prayed and had those prayers seemingly go unanswered? It's easy to get discouraged and doubting... especially if the god in question tells you (Gorr) that you don't matter to him. Tragic and heartbreaking. And then to get his daughter back, only to die from the curse. It was awful.

In the end, the movie was cute. Not every Marvel movie is going to be a mind-blowing blockbuster. If each Marvel movie and each Thor movie is just trying to outdo the last, it’s not sustainable. And like I mentioned before, Marvel is trying some new stuff. Some of it is working (like Shang Chi) and some of it isn’t. In the end, I maintain that this is a romantic comedy and I recommend you into it with the appropriate expectations. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

The Year I Finally Understood Scrooge

(Guest post by David)

Perhaps like many of you, growing up I was introduced to different media interpretations of Charles Dickens’ novel, A Christmas Carol. It started with Disney’s animated adaptation, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, where Mickey Mouse played Bob Cratchit and Scrooge McDuck starred as the money obsessed Ebenezer Scrooge. Later, I watched the 1970’s Scrooge, a live-action musical film with actor Albert Finney (pre-Annie Daddy Warbucks) as the titular character and Jacob Marley brought to undead life by Sir Alec Guinness before he taught the world about “the Force.” In between these, I saw Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Gonzo the Great, and other Muppets tell their own version, with Scrooge performed by British actor, Michael Caine in The Muppet Christmas Carol

From each of these retellings, I always came away with a firm dislike of Ebenezer Scrooge. To me, he was a mean, selfish, frightening man. I was glad at the end of each film when he finally reformed. These negative feelings toward Scrooge were entrenched for decades until the year I unexpectedly saw Mr. “Bah, Humbug” in a new light. 

The year was 2005 (or 2004, this detail has grown vague over the years), and I was celebrating the holidays with my family in Michigan. One evening before Christmas, I was decorating the tree alone, and had the television on in the background. It was tuned into the Disney Channel which so happened to be airing The Muppet Christmas Carol. I decided to listen to it while I trimmed the evergreen. As I was stringing lights and hanging ornaments on the branches, I noticed that I was paying closer attention to the story even though I’d seen this movie countless times before. I particularly paid attention to the events and choices that molded Scrooge’s life. 

I finally realized that Scrooge spent a lonely and (what appears to be) a largely friendless childhood. To fill the void, he focused on his education, and as a young adult, pursued his career. At one point in his life, Scrooge found love with Belle, a young woman whom for a time he wanted to marry. Sadly however, Belle broke their engagement because Ebenezer prioritized success and riches over their relationship. These insights into Scrooge not only helped me understand why he became “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, clutching, covetous, old sinner,” but also assisted me in surprisingly discovering that I related to him. 

I could empathize with Scrooge keeping his nephew, Fred at a distance, and not allowing others into his life. Growing up, I was very shy and struggled with social anxiety. As a result, I preferred activities that didn’t necessarily require others. With people outside my family, I avoided social interactions as much as I could. I rarely had friends, and when I did, some of them would join peers in teasing and bullying me, or simply disappeared. From this, I painfully learned that people in general couldn’t be trusted, and that I had to protect myself by keeping them at a distance or cutting them out of my life. 

I saw that Scrooge and I were similar in the way we dealt with our emptiness. Ebenezer threw himself into his studies at school. Afterward, he worked to become partners with Jacob Marley, and then concerned himself in acquiring money. I engaged in solitary hobbies and interests. My college life was focused on earning an education, and upon entering the workforce, I devoted myself to my employment.   

I did notice that one difference between me and Scrooge is how we interacted with people. He didn’t seem to care if he was nasty, angry, and miserly with everyone. I on the other hand felt it was required to be unfailingly polite, bubbly, and friendly with others, while inwardly feeling anxious, alone, and in emotional pain. But even in this aspect of our lives, Scrooge and I were essentially the same, we both were unhappy. 

It has been almost 20 years since that December night. Like Scrooge, I have experienced change and healing. I allow people into my life, include them in my interests and activities, and I even have close friends now. I also no longer view Scrooge as a heartless villain. Now I see him as a nuanced individual shaped by things both within and outside his control. I enjoy following Scrooge’s journey of redemption through the divine interactions with Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmases “Past,” “Present,” and “Yet to Come.” In addition, I appreciate different versions of Scrooge’s story, such as Jim Carrey voicing Ebenezer Scrooge in Disney’s computer animated film, Barbie in A Christmas Carol's Eden Starling (a female variation of Scrooge), or “A Hearth’s Warming Tale’s” Snowfall Frost in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Each remain true to the character’s ultimate healing and transformation into “as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man as the good old city ever had. And it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well if any man alive possessed the knowledge.” 

“God Bless Us, Everyone,” and Merry Christmas (in July)! 

Monday, July 25, 2022

Love Is War!

“First you fall in love, then you confess it and find it returned in full. Ask anyone and they will say it is a wonderful thing, but they are so ... very ... wrong. Even with the cutest of couples there are power dynamics at work. There is a side that gives and a side that takes; one who rules and one who serves; a winner and a loser. If it is your wish to live a noble life you must not become the loser. Love is no game, Its War! Whoever gives there heart first will be conquered.” This is how the show Love is War starts.

This show starts as a parody of traditional romantic comedy manga, comparing love to war, but as the show progresses it morphs into a charming well developed story about two characters, Shirogane and Shinomiya, trying to get the other to confess their love to them in the most elaborate, over the top ways. In each story we follow either Shirogane's or Shinomiya's perspectives, listening to their inner dialogue as they execute their plot to get a confession. One of my favorite schemes is when the student body council (which Shirogane presides as president and Shinomiya as vice president) play a truth game where one person asks a question and everyone answers anonymously with a coin; heads is true, and tails is false. They all agree to be honest and when it comes to Shinomiya turn she asks the group if they love her in a romantic way. She knows that the president's coin with a unique year on it and this would be as good as a confession. if you want to know how Shirogane gets out of this situation you must watch the show and find out. This is how formula for most episodes one will plot a diabolical plan to get the other to confess their love.  

Most of the time while I watch shows I don’t laugh out loud, but this anime had me chuckling on numerous occasions with its exaggeration. If you like the romance between Jim and Pam from The Office or enjoyed romantic comedy's like The Proposal and any other of Ryan Reynolds chick flicks, then give this show a try. I have laughed more watching this show than most comedy's I have seen and was more invested in the romance between the main leads. This comedy develops the characters into compassionate, well-fleshed out characters. The supporting characters are a great addition and make the show better. My favorite characters are the other members of the council, like Iino who has a strong sense of justice and decency and wants her school to not decline in morality. Her interactions with Ishigami are priceless because he is carefree and has no structure for life, but he protects his friends (even Iino) from embarrassing themselves which usually results in him being humiliated. Iino doesn’t realize he does this for his friends and gets frustrated because his actions decreases the decency of the student council.

I appreciate that what is learned in one episode is continued throughout the show. For example, when Shinomiya feels like she is not in control of the situation and becoming flustered she trained herself to be calm by placing her hand on her cheek. After she learned this we see her keep using this technique throughout the show letting the audience know that she is being compromised.  

I am not the only person that believes that this show is the great. According to MyAnimeList Love is War is currently the highest-rated anime of all time--- passing Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (Finished airing August 2010) which has been at the top spot for a very long time. Personally, I can see why this show is number one. I see myself re-watching this show if I wanted to look for a good laugh. Before the 3rd season I watched the first two seasons again for a refresher and I still got a good laugh out of it.

Love is War is a great anime that shows how entertaining anime can be. It has clean language even when Shirogane is learning how to rap, when his rap swears it’s bleeped out which made it more fun. The show is also respectful and doesn’t show anything inappropriate. Each season is about 12 episodes, each episode is 20 minutes long, each episode has multiple mini stories. If you like anime, you would like this show. If you haven’t seen anime or gave it a try once, give this show a try.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories: Summary

Chain of Memories takes place after Kingdom Hearts I and this game was my introduction to the series. My friend had Kingdom Hearts and liked the game, but I didn’t own a PlayStation, but Chain of Memories came out to Game Boy Advance, so I got this game and played it. The story was confusing because it’s the sequel to the first, but I enjoyed the game play as a kid until I got stuck. In the game Sora enters a memory of a world that he went to in the previous game and to go from room to the next you must use a map card to open the door. Sadly, I didn’t have the card they wanted, and I got tired of grinding to get the card. This round of playing I didn’t get stuck, and I enjoyed the story more than I did as a child, but didn't like the game play as much.

Before I explain the plot, I would like to mention the battle system. The game revolves around collectible cards. Either battle cards or map cards. Map cards are used to open doors and are a one-time use, while battle cards are used to fight enemies and can be used repeatedly. The battle is in real time, and you use attack cards (that have a value) to attack the enemy. If your value is higher than your opponents, they get hit and take damage, however if theirs is higher Sora/Riku get hit and stunned. With combinations your character can perform a higher damaging attack.

While playing Sora’s story each world you revisit progressively gets larger than the previous and the game becomes more of a grind. I didn't like this until Sora learned this one ability that annihilated most of the enemies you battled. When I learned that I enjoyed the game more. However, when I played as Riku, he never learned the powerful combo’s that Sora learned which was sad, but the worlds he visits are much smaller. I think the best scenario would have Sora’s combos with Riku's smaller area.

I didn’t like revisiting all these worlds again, especially since I just played Kingdom Hearts I and the layout of each world was copied from that game in the remix version. However, I liked the story of the game it brought more lore of the universe. This game introduces “Organization XIII” members wearing black hooded coat. There are 13 members that we will discuss a different post each member has an “x” in the name.

If you never played this game and played KH I and KH II there is a lot that happens in between the two games, but what I thought was cleaver is we experience the same confusion Sora has if we just play those two games. At the end of this game Sora chooses to lose his current memories of what happened while in castle oblivion. So, he remembers what happens at the end of the first game and “wakes up” in the second game. I think this is very clever.

Summary: Sora

At the end of the first game Sora, Donald, and Goofy set out to find Riku and King Mickey who are trapped in the realm of darkness. While searching, a man in a black hooded coat appears and directs Sora towards Castle Oblivion to find his friends. The hooded man explains the deeper into the castle they go memories they will lose but will uncover new memories that were "forgotten". Sora and the gang are willing to lose their memories to find their friends, but don’t understand what memories will be uncovered.

To ascend in the castle Sora must revisit a memory of the world he went to in the first game and as he leaves, he forgets more of his memories. I think he forgets the memories of that world as he leaves it. The story of that world is different than KH I, but this is Sora's recollection of events that took place. So he remembers it differently than what actually happened. As he progresses up the castle loosing his memories, he appears to remember a girl name Naminé a friend of his and Riku’s. As he gains more memories of Naminé he forgets his search for Riku and Mickey.

He eventually learns about the Organization and how they have captured Naminé who is imprisoned somewhere in this castle. He finds a replica of Riku created and controlled by an organization member named Vexen. They fight each other frequently trying to protect Naminé. Eventually another organization member, Axel (a double agent), releases Naminé and allows her to find Sora. When they meet Sora discovers that Naminé has been forced to alter his memories (releasing his memories and putting fake ones in) by Marluxia, another Organization member and lord of Castle Oblivion. He also was the one that lured Sora to the castle. He wanted Sora’s power of the keyblade to overthrow the Organization and become the leader. After Sora climbs the highest floor and defeats Marluxia. He has a choice to either enter a pod to regain his memories and forget the memories he gained in the castle or forget his past and keep his current memories. Sora decides to enter the pod firmly believing that he will be friends with Naminé again when he awakens because the memories will be remembered in his heart.

Summary: Riku

While Sora and his gang is in the Castle, Riku is transported from the realm of darkness to castle oblivion’s lowest basement by Diz teleporting him there. He climbs the castle to conquer the inner darkness in him. As he climbs the Castle he fights Vexen, who takes his data to make a Riku replica. The darkness that Ansem (the villain in KH I) gave Riku tries to posses him. Mickey and Riku keep Ansem darkness at bay. Throughout this story we see Riku trying to not give into darkness and Mickey helping him out.

The Organization knows about Riku being in the castle and when Marluxia is defeated, the organization decides to eliminate Riku. Zexion, a member of the Organization, tries killing Riku by drowning him in light but Riku is saved by Naminé disguised as Kairi in a memory. He starts to learn to control his darkness and embraces the light. He meets Diz who instructs him to find the real Naminé and as he does he fights against his replica who wants to justify his existence by killing Riku, only to be destroyed by him. Riku finds Naminé and is given a choose to either wipe the darkness in him or overcome the darkness and face Ansem who dwells in his heart. He chooses to face his heart and after defeating him with light and darkness he travels with Diz and Mickey.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Cassian Andor: Good, Bad, or Ugly?

(Guest post by Ben)

Cassian Andor was part of the fight against the Empire since he was six years old. At least, that’s what he told Jyn Erso, daughter of Galen Erso who also happened to be the brains behind the Empire’s planet-killing Death Star. Fighting the good fight for such a long time and from such a young age would make Cassian a true hero, would it not?

Or would it instead have desensitized him to the point that war is all he knows? That compassion, kindness, and caring are simply relics of a bygone era?

When we first meet Cassian in Rogue One, he’s getting intel from a fellow member of the Rebellion (well, technically the informant was part of Saw Gerrera’s band of extremist insurgents, a disparate group than that of the acclaimed Rebel Alliance). Tivik—the aforementioned informant—had hurt his arm, making it impossible for him to climb to safety, which is what Cassian ended up doing…after shooting Tivik to keep him from getting captured. (Thoughtful, I know.)

So that’s how we’re first introduced to Cassian Andor. He murders an informant in order to keep his secrets from being not-secret. Is that the kind of action we associate with our heroes? Generally not. Look at it this way: Han shot Greedo (first, might I add). Killed him cold. Of course, Greedo was about to do the same to Han, so in retrospect, Han was simply saving his own life. We don’t blame him for killing some sleemo that worked for another—albeit much larger—sleemo. Gotta protect yourself, right?

OK, bad example. But if Han had shot and killed Luke to protect himself? Or if he’d thrown Chewie under the space-bus in order to survive? We would have hated the guy! Some hero, right? Fortunately, Han Solo was a team player and took care of his friends before they were even his friends.

But on the Ring of Kafrene, Cassian Andor showed his true colors. He shot one of his compatriots in cold blood. Ruthless.

However, when Cassian goes to take out Galen Erso further on in the film, both Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus seem surprised that he would do that. “Does he look like a killer?” Chirrut asked. Baze didn’t seem to think so. In fact, Baze seemed to think he had “the face of a friend.” So what’s up with this Andor guy, anyway? Is he good, or is bad? (Or maybe he and Baze simply go way back.)

And then there’s the whole end-of-the-movie thing where Cassian redeems himself by sacrificing himself to get the Death Star plans to the Alliance. Oh, you haven’t seen Rogue One yet? Um, spoilers, I guess… But anyway, did this act of valor actually redeem Andor from all his past atrocities? Does exercising for five minutes undo the pound of decadent chocolate fudge cake you just ate? Who’s to say? (Although I like to believe that’s all the exercising I need.)

So what is Cassian? Is he a good guy? Is he a bad person? Is he downright ugly? Is he all of the above? These are the questions I’m hoping—nay, expecting—the Star Wars: Andor show to answer. He is obviously a flawed character, but he’s also deeply complex. There’s more to Cassian Andor than just the wholesomeness of Princess Leia’s goodness and the overtness of Sheev Palpatine’s evilness. I’m excited to see where they take Cassian’s character (obviously from a prequel standpoint since anything after Rogue One is, well…this is awkward…) and if they will make him more of a sympathetic character, or make him as evil as the Dark Side itself. (My money’s on making him more sympathetic, but hey, anything’s possible.) They’re bound to show the “terrible things” he’s done on behalf of the Alliance, but by so doing, will we come to like him more as a hero, or come to see him more as a villain?

Your turn! Do you think Cassian Andor is a hero, a villain, or a little bit of both? Share your thoughts in the comments! 

Andor premieres August 31 on Disney Plus

Monday, July 18, 2022

9 Utterly Relatable Chandler Bing Quotes

Over the course of 10 years of Friends, Chandler Bing quickly became the most sarcastic TV character (if you can think of someone more sarcastic, put it in the comments). His snappy one-liners are always sure to crack a smile when I’m having a bad day. I wish I could be more spontaneous and witty, but Chandler’s saying what we’re all thinking. He just had the sass to say it first.

Friday, July 15, 2022

D&D Class Breakdown: Paladin

 For new players, it can be hard to choose your first class. For veteran players, it can be hard to choose a class and not fall into stereotypes everyone's seen a thousand times. So now I'm going to deconstruct the 5E Player's Handbook classes (Sorry Artificer, you'll come later) and talk about what works, what doesn't, and some interesting ways to play the classes. 

I won't be going into game mechanics as much as I'll be going into roleplay. 

Let's talk about Paladins! 

What is a Paladin? 

The knight in shining armor, the paladin is a hero of the realm. He's the exemplar of bravery who charges the dragon to save the princess, who rides into battle on a magnificent horse with a lance looking for the next evil to defeat. 

Historically the first paladins were a group of knights that served Charlemagne, the first king of England, during his reign. After that they're mainly referred to as the leaders of righteous crusades and hero princes and kings. In modern times paladins have fallen mainly into the realm of fiction, ascribed to King Arthur's court and fairy tales. 

In the Game
In game paladins are the military wing of church organizations, their purpose to slay evil and bring the glory of whatever gods or ideals they swear allegiance to. Paladins who perform acts against their oaths can lose their power and become fallen paladins, which are evil counterparts to their former brethren. 

Some Dungeons and Dragons history: Once upon a time back in 3/3.5 paladins were required to be lawful good, and with their strict moral code players tended to play the paladins as overzealous bullies who confuses righteous indignation with pure stupidity and often would get the party in more trouble than they were worth. I went into detail about lawful good  before but suffice it to say this is not how lawful good works. Because of this and other game restrictions the paladin has gone out of favor with players, despite them being more open in 5th edition. 

Breaking the Trope
The paladin in 5e is a far more versatile class and can be a huge help in a party without having to be lawful stupid. The key is to remember that a moral code doesn't mean a person is ignorant or stupid, they're just devoted and have lines they refuse to cross. 

Defender of Alternate Faiths
Paladins tend to follow the pattern of knights of the round table, but what if the paladin's order protects the arcane instead? How about a paladin for a god of death? Look into alternate deities and find what would make a person devote their lives to protecting an ideal that's not the standard coded Christianity. 

Defender of Home
A hero of a city or for a nation is one thing, but what about the village hero? Imagine a cute halfling village who has a diligent protector, a paladin of Hobbiton if you will. Maybe they're adventuring to bring wealth back to their village, or get revenge on the person who destroyed the same, or the villain came from their quaint hamlet and the paladin must now take out the villager they once failed. 

A wandering hero with no name, righting wrongs wherever they go, on some personal quest for redemption makes for a cool character and would be a great fit for a paladin (or a fighter or a ranger). No idea how they'd fit into a campaign with a bunch of other traveling weirdos but that's for the player and DM to decide. 

Famous Paladins

Vax'ildan (Critical Role)
Starting the game as a rogue, Vax later cross classed into paladin of the Raven Queen, a death goddess. The cross class was an interesting character development and worked perfectly with the sneaky assassin's style. 

Guts (Berserk) 
An anti-hero with a giant sword, Guts wields a blade that absorbs energy from all the evil things he's killed, trapping them forever from coming back. Since he has a brand on his neck that attracts demons and monsters, that blade gets fed often. He wanders trying to help who he can while keeping an eye out for a way to get rid of the brand. 

Trevor Belmont (Castlevania)
Okay full disclosure: I have never played a Castlevania game, but I absolutely love the show on Netflix. Trevor is a swearing drunk who upholds his family tradition of being a monster hunter. He teams up with Alucard, the son of Dracula because he's smart enough to understand that the enemy of my enemy is my friend concept. 

The Jedi Order (Star Wars)
All of them. They're all paladins. Anakin is a fallen paladin and the rest are just vanilla Walmart brand paladins.


Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Dos and Don'ts of Comic Con

(Guest Post by Ken)

Last year when I attended FaxExpo Dallas , I did it with one of my kids in tow each day. This year, I mixed it up and brought kids one day, then came solo the next day. With this varied experience and now two years of attending a Con under my belt, I’ve come up with some dos and don’ts for attending a comic con:

DO: Use public transportation to get there

DON’T: Expect to find nice parking

This is at least true of the Dallas Con. On day one I took the train and it was nice and convenient, even with a train change (I also did this last year). On day two I thought maybe I’d save time by driving directly and parking, because I knew traffic would be light on Saturday. BIG MISTAKE. While the drive time itself was a bit shorter than the train ride, finding parking added 45 MINUTES OF MADNESS. There is no parking assistance attendants directing traffic and I ultimately had to park over a half mile away in a random paid lot.

DO: Bring water bottles and some snacks if you can

DON’T: Plan on buying food “quickly” between other things on your schedule

Walking around the conference is hard work! Stay hydrated and keep the energy up along the way. And be aware that if the con you go to is like Dallas, there will not be enough food options for attendees. Lines were nearly an hour long on Saturday. I was surprised that the food vendor stations and footprint were exactly identical to last year (when many people still stayed away due to Covid). They had not planned for the increase of attendees in a post-Covid world. So don’t bank on food being quick and easy to buy at the con (not to mention affordable—think airport prices)!

DO: Take your kids to the family-friendly stuff

DON’T: Bring small kids with you the WHOLE time

Last year I always had a kid with me, which really limited me to doing what would hold their interest. I actually did enjoy taking my kids, but this year it was nice to only have them for part of it. They still had a blast, but I also got to go hand out with my grown-up friends and do stuff they thought would be boring, like listen to panels. If you can work out a way to bring kids for some but not all of the conference, that’s ideal. Best way to plan ahead is to check out the schedule in advance to find both when the family friendly stuff is happening, and when the stuff YOU want is, so you can decide when best to have them with you. Better yet, if your spouse comes you could trade off having the kids.

DO: Check out the vendor floor

DON’T: Linger in the walkway on the vendor floor

Oh, the vendor floor! What an arena of confusion and bustling excitement and overwhelming claustrophobia! There was a lot of unused floor space at Dallas they could have used to widen the corridors between booths, but instead they designed as cramped of a setup as possible. Nonetheless, the vendor floor is a fascinating place worth a stroll for the people watching and to see the amazing collection of niche products. All I’ve bought each year is some comic books (that I let my kids pick). I’m not much of a merchandise-collector myself. But I still found the walk to be amusing and fun, albeit too crowded. And please if you want to check something out closer, approach the booth and clear the way for others passing rather than stopping in the passing space and causing a traffic jam!

DO: Attend celebrity panels

DON’T: Stand in autograph lines

My “don’t” here may sound like heresy to die-hard con fans, but I truly think standing in line for 2+ hours (this seemed to be the average wait time on Saturday) to meet a celebrity for 30 seconds while they scribble their name on a photo for you and then charge you $100+ is NOT WORTH IT. Especially since you can typically still have great interaction with celebrities by attending their very entertaining panel discussions and sessions, where they often have open-mic Q&A sessions where you can still have an interaction moment—for free! But what about the signature, you ask? Did you know that nearly all celebrities will send a signed letter or photo to you in the mail FOR FREE if you send them fan mail? No 2 hour wait among crowded sweaty people required, and it only costs 50 cents for a postage stamp. (My father has collected literally thousands of celebrity signatures this way)

DO: Attend something new you may not know much about beforehand

DON’T: Waste time somewhere if you’re bored

These are rules I first learned by attending professional conferences over the years, specifically regarding break-out sessions. Some of my favorite sessions as such conferences are often ones I didn’t know much about before but learned a lot at. That was true at FanExpo as well. My kids and I decided to attend a session by a kid’s book illustrator. He live drew pictures quickly on a projector as he told stories live and also discussed illustration and his career. At the end, he gave most of the drawings to my kids! It was really interesting and fun. On the other hand, sometimes a session, even one you were excited for, turns out to be a dud. There are lots of things to do, so if you are 5 minutes into a session and it wasn’t what you hoped, don’t be afraid to jump ship and go somewhere else! You are paying good money to be there and should get the most out of it.

Monday, July 11, 2022

She-Hulk Binge List

We’re in the final stretch waiting for She-Hulk to premiere. She might be a newcomer on the scene, but we already know her cousin: Bruce Banner. And with Bruce/Hulk set to return, alongside his foe Blonsky/Abomination, maybe it’s time to rewatch some of their adventures.

The Incredible Hulk (1 hour 52 min)

Before we had Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, the Hulk’s alter-ego was played by Edward Norton. Despite the different actors, this movie is still MCU canon. And it’s better than its critics say. This is where we get our first glimpse at Bruce and his arch-enemy the Abomination. Also, this movie introduced General Ross and I wouldn’t be surprised if he appears in She-Hulk.

The Avengers (2 hours 23 min)

Enter Mark Ruffalo as our new Bruce Banner. This is his first adventure alongside SHIELD and the Avengers. He seems to have his anger under control (to some extent) as he and the others stop Loki and the Chitauri from taking over Planet Earth. It’s also when Bruce can finally stop running from the authorities it seems.

Iron Man 3 (2 hours 10 min)

This movie is all about Tony Stark and his issues after the Battle of New York. Honestly, we don’t even see Bruce Banner until the credits scene. All the same, this comical scene is often forgotten (even by me). Probably due to the fact that lots of fans dislike Iron Man 3. I still like it though, despite what haters say.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2 hours 21 min)

Hulk and Banner come back into the picture as they seemingly take down the last of Hydra (unless you still consider Agents of SHIELD canon--which I do). But in the course of it, the Maximoff twins mess them up emotionally. This movie also introduced the brief romance (if you can call it that) between Banner and Black Widow. Could have done without that, but whatever.

Thor: Ragnarok (2 hours 10 min)

When Banner/Hulk went missing on Earth, he was stranded on Sakaar for a few years. With the Hulk in charge almost the whole time. It wasn’t until Thor arrived that Bruce came back. This movie showed a more intelligent side to the Hulk. Instead of just growling and yelling “Smash” the titan was able to carry on conversations.

Avengers: Infinity War (2 hours 29 min)

Still traveling with the Asgardians, Bruce/Hulk was caught in the middle of Thanos’s massacre. Sent to Earth to warn everyone, Bruce was around when the mad titan’s forces began attacking. Unfortunately, and for reasons not really explained, the Hulk wouldn’t come out to fight, so Bruce was left to battle in the Hulkbuster suit instead.

Captain Marvel (2 hours 4 min)

Another movie where Bruce doesn’t appear until the credits. All the same, I think this movie is still worth watching. I honestly don’t know why people hate it so much. But after Carol’s story from 1996 is shown, we get a flashforward to the present day when the Avengers are assessing the post-Snap damage. This is where Bruce, Natasha, and the others finally meet Carol Danvers.

Avengers: Endgame (3 hours 2 min)

After a brief stop in the present day, the story fast-forwards five years and all of a sudden we have a Bruce/Hulk mashup, sometimes known as Professor Hulk or Smart Hulk. I still don’t know what I think of this version of Hulk, but that’s okay. After Bruce is able to snap Thanos’s victims back to life, the big battle ensues. It’s because of Tony’s sacrifice they’re able to win in the end… but it’s not happily ever after.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2 hours 12 min)

Bruce doesn’t appear until the credits (again) but the Abomination shows up in the fight club with Wong. Blonsky hadn’t even been mentioned since he was said to be in custody seven years prior in the SHIELD episode “T.R.A.C.K.S.” But here he’s free and fighting Wong for cash. Later on, during the credits, we see Bruce analyzing the Ten Rings. But he’s human again. No more Professor Hulk.

There’s a lot to unpack with She-Hulk. Why is Bruce human again? How did Blonsky get free? Maybe we’ll finally get word on where Betty Ross is after all these years. Regardless, I’m looking forward to another awesome MCU series!